Change UK candidate Ali Sadjady 'embarrassed' over Romanian pickpockets remark

Rebecca Speare-Cole

A Change UK candidate for the European elections who was forced to quit over remarks he made about Romanian pickpockets has said he is "embarrassed" by his "ignorant" comments.

Ali Sadjady, a mixed martial arts fighter and former Conservative, agreed to resign after an old tweet was uncovered in which he said he wanted Brexit if it stopped Romanian pickpockets on the Tube.

It came just hours after he was unveiled as a candidate for the European Parliament at the pro-European group’s launch in Bristol on Tuesday.

In November 2017, he wrote: “When I hear that 70% of pick pockets caught on the London Underground are Romanian it kind makes me want Brexit.”

Speaking to the Evening Standard today, the 44-year-old said: "I have apologised again and again. It was a very ignorant tweet and it definitely doesn't reflect my views.

(AFP/Getty Images/Adrian Dennis)

"It was a heat-of-the-moment tweet in reaction to a friend who had been robbed.

"I have a background where I was bullied and faced racism my whole life so I cringe that I wrote that.

"I am not excusing what I tweeted because I think it's in our nature to point the finger but I am not pointing the finger at anyone other than myself. I take full responsibility.

"I think these things should be highlighted, I think this is a serious issue. Talking about racism, xenophobia, misogyny, I think these should all be highlighted and if it is at my expense then fine."

His pro-remain track record was also thrown into question after he apparently once branded Mayor of London Sadiq Khan a “joke of a man” for advocating a second Brexit referendum.

He asked: “To those petitioning for a second EU referendum, don’t you believe in democracy or does it not apply when things don’t go your way?”

The martial arts teacher said he was disappointed no longer be standing in the elections after Heidi Allen, Change UK's interim leader interviewed and offered him the candidacy.

"I was really excited about it. I was jumping up and down when Heidi Allen called me," he said.

Heidi Allen interviewed Mr Sadjady for the candidacy. (REUTERS)

"I think I would have done a good job. I was raised in a council flat, I have experienced austerity and I have made a success of my life somewhat and worked hard for it and I believe that I can actually relate to people."

He explained how he got a call from Change UK headquarters after reports broke over the tweets and he immediately said he was going to resign.

"It came from me," he said "I am very embarrassed."

During the aftermath of the EU referendum Mr Sadjady had also tweeted: “Brexit is like dumping your girlfriend because she’s expensive and high maintenance and then realising she’s pretty hot.”

He told the Evening Standard: "I have a mother, I have a grandmother niece girlfriend, friends, and it does not reflect my views.

"You say stupid things and that was stupid as well.

“I have tweeted so much that I don’t remember half the stuff I wrote."

After reports emerged of his previous twitter activity, Mr Sadjady reportedly locked his account but soon posted an apology.

He wrote: "I apologise if I have offended with some of my past tweets, anyone that knows me, knows that they are not representative of who I am and every day I am trying to be the best version of me.

“I am happy to stand down as MEP candidate for Change UK so as not to tarnish their reputation."

He says his wavering views were a product of how facts were presented through the media, politicians and the "negative energy" of the Conservative party.

In March, Mr Sadjady cancelled his membership of the Conservative party due to the party’s handling of Brexit and Islamophobia allegations against it.

Other Change UK candidates include former BBC presenter Gavin Elser and journalist Rachel Johnson, Boris' sister. (AFP/Getty Images)

The Independent Group has already faced backlash and accusation of racism since its inception earlier this year.

One of its MPs Angela Smith caused uproar when she described people from ethnic minorities as having a “funny tinge” in a discussion about racism on live TV.

Other Change UK candidates include Rachel Johnson, a journalist who is the sister of Boris Johnson, and former deputy prime minister of Poland, London-born, Jacek Rostowski.

At its campaign launch on Tuesday the party immediately confirmed it would not be supporting a no-confidence vote in Theresa May’s government, but further policies would be unveiled in the future.